The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, met on Wednesday in Skopje with the leaders of the countries of the Western Balkans, members of the Alliance, to discuss security issues in the region and beyond; the ongoing war in Ukraine as well as the conflict in the Middle East, but also on other topics.
Mr. Stoltenberg said that the Western Balkan region is of strategic importance for NATO and according to him there are reasons for concern.
“We see threats of separation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a fragile security situation in Kosovo and stalled talks between Belgrade and Pristina. Above all, authoritarian states, such as Russia, aim to undermine our democracies”, said the head of NATO.
“Stability in the Western Balkans depends on all parties choosing dialogue and diplomacy instead of conflict and chaos,” he further emphasized.
“The re-engagement in the dialogue mediated by the EU is essential for the path of Belgrade and Pristina towards peace and well-being. The latest proposal for the Association of Municipalities with a Serbian Majority could be an important step forward. It is time to avoid the conflicts that have lasted for a long time”, said Mr. Stoltenberg.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has proposed a format for a NATO summit with the Western Balkans, where not only the members of the Alliance but also its partner countries will be present.
In the joint press conference, he spoke more about Kosovo, while he considered the last attack in its north as a warning and not a sporadic event.
Prime Minister Rama also emphasized the intentions to speed up the procedures regarding the construction of the NATO base in Porto Romano, because this would be important according to him, for the strategic value not only for Albania but also for NATO itself, which will was gaining rapid access to this side of Europe for the purposes of common defence.
He, in the meantime, announced that his country has met with the 2024 budget the goal of financing defense by 2 percent, as NATO requires, in order to be at the forefront of the Alliance countries in all common challenges.
The President of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, responding to a question from journalists about the expulsion of a Croatian diplomat from Serbia, said that this appears to be part of the pre-election campaign in the neighboring country. “It’s good that there are elections in Serbia”, he commented.
The Macedonian Prime Minister, Dimitar Kovacevski said that the stability and security that NATO offers to his country and the region also brings economic well-being, European and American investors and better standards for citizens.
“North Macedonia and the countries of the region deserve to be part of the European Union,” he said, while adding that the country has the capacity to withstand Russian influence and malicious intentions, while he sees his country as a stability factor in the region. of the Balkans.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Milojko Spajic emphasized the strong commitment of his government to the fulfillment of strategic goals, which are: full membership in the EU, the implementation of NATO policies and the expansion of regional cooperation.
According to him, the security situation in the region requires constant vigilance of the EU and NATO, while he said that his country “has zero problems with its neighbors”.
The meeting also discussed Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine, as the head of the Alliance said, as he added that he sees no signs in Putin to negotiate or stop the war.
He expressed gratitude to the countries of the region for providing vital support, as he said, to Ukraine.
Mr. Stoltenberg reiterated that the Alliance does not see a direct military threat to its member countries and to the region. He described North Macedonia as a successful country in several areas, “including being a successful multi-ethnic society that proves to the region and beyond that people of different origins can coexist peacefully”. “And a highly rated allied country”, he said.